Rushdie on PEN American Center and Charlie Hebdo
Alexandra Alter recently interviewed "Salman Rushdie on His New Novel, With a Character Who Floats Just Above Ground" (New York Times, September 4, 2015), and along with Rushdie's words on his novel were some words from him about free speech, words motivated by Alter's query:
Q. You were very vocal in supporting the PEN American Center's decision to honor the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo this year, something that some other writers, including Peter Carey and Francine Prose, opposed, because they said the magazine perpetuated bigoted ideas. Were you surprised to be on the other side of an ideological divide from some of your peers?I'm glad Rushdie supports free speech so unreservedly. He has to. of course, due to the fatwa against him for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. Like Rushdie, I am also - and always - surprised to hear writers speak out against free speech.
A. I could not believe it. Still can't believe it. So many writers who are old friends. It was really shocking. Now, of course, the lasting damage is in some of those friendships. I haven't seen any of them, nor have any of them been in touch with me. I felt a sense of injustice, that these people were executed for drawing pictures. If we're a free-speech organization, how can we not be on their side? For Mr. Carey to say to The New York Times that he didn't see it as a free-speech issue, I thought, "What?"
Q. He's a friend of yours, right?
A. Well, was. It's bewildering and saddening.